Navy looks to improve record in 2003

Navy head coach Paul Johnson enters the 2003 season with a wealth of returning experience and a schedule that will enable his team build on its successes. Here's a look at how I see the Midshipmen faring during 2003.

VMI, Aug. 30, Annapolis- The VMI Keydets are members of the Southern Conference. VMI finished 2002 with a 6-6 record overall, their best record since 1981. The Keydets lost to the likes of William & Mary, 62-31 and Appalachian State, 54-13. Their wins included a 27-16 win over Wofford. They completed their recent spring drills without a starting quarterback being named. Prediction, Navy 38-VMI 10

TCU, Sept. 6, Fort Worth, Tex.- The Horned Frogs finished the 2002 season 10-2 and defeated a tough Colorado State team in the Liberty Bowl. Gary Patterson who is 16-9 in two years in Fort Worth coaches TCU. The Frogs will be hard pressed to repeat their 2002 work as they return only 4 of 11 starters on offense and 6 of 11 on defense. Outlook: A hot Texas day awaits the Middies. The boys from Annapolis could take advantage of the personnel changes on the TCU roster but expect TCU to emerge victorious. Prediction: TCU 28 Navy 21.

Eastern Michigan, Sept. 20 Annapolis- The Eagles of the Mid American Conference finished last season 3-9. EMU gave up over 30 points in every contest and lost 6 consecutive games to finish out the season. Head Coach Jeff Woodruff enters his fourth season at the helm with an 8-26 record. Woodruff returns 10 starters to the defense, alone which should help to keep the scores down in 2003. The offense gets 8 back but must replace the quarterback. Prediction: Navy 30 EMU 13.

Rutgers, Sept. 27, Piscataway, N.J.- The Scarlet Knights won one game in 2002; a 44-0 win over our friends at West Point. Along the way they lost to the likes of Villanova, Buffalo, and Temple. The guys from New Jersey's schedule included the likes of Notre Dame, Syracuse, Tennessee, Boston College, Pitt, Miami (Fl.) and Virginia Tech. Rutgers gave up 51 sacks and averaged just 51 yards rushing a game in 2002. Prediction: Navy 27 Rutgers 20.

Air Force, Oct. 4, Landover, Md.- The hated Falcons finished the 2002 season with an 8-5 record that included a 48-7 win over the Midshipmen. Head Coach Fisher DeBerry sports a 149-83-1 career record at the Colorado school and is 32-6 career against Army and Navy. Air Force returns 16 starters and look to be even better in 2003. Prediction: Air Force 30 Navy 17.

Vanderbilt, Oct. 11. Nashville, Tenn.- The Commodores struggled through 2002 and finished with a 2-10 record but should be improved in 2003 with 6 starters returning on both the offense and defense. Vanderbilt, the SEC's doormat, hasn't had a winning season since 1982. Second year Head Coach Bobby Johnson hopes to bring the Commodores to the level his Furman teams performed at. When Navy Coach Johnson was at Georgia Southern his teams frequently tangled with Furman Coach Johnson's teams with championship ramifications. This one could go either way but I'll go with Vandy since they have the home field advantage. Prediction: Vanderbilt 28 Navy 27.

Rice, Oct. 18, Houston, Tex.- Ken Hatfield's Owls held on to defeat Navy last season, 17-10. Rice went on to finish 4-7 overall in 2002, including a 33-18 win at Tulsa. Rice returns senior Kyle Herm to direct its offense, which is similar to Navy's. Rice returns just 3 starters on defense. Prediction: Navy 38 Rice 34.

Delaware, Oct. 25, Annapolis- The Division 1-AA Blue Hens finished the 2002 season 6-6. Delaware is coached by K.C. Keeler who in his first season led them to victories over 3 top 20 Division I-AA teams including a 22-19 win over Georgia Southern. The 6 losses margins were by a combined total of 26 point. Keeler went young his first season. Expect the Hens to be much tougher in '03. Prediction: Navy 21 Delaware 17.

Tulane, Nov. 1, Annapolis- The Green Wave had a fine year in 2002, winning 8 games and emerging as Hawaii Bowl Champions. Don't let all the Greenie talk about possibly dropping football fool you. Tulane returns 10 starters to a potent passing attack. The defense returns just 3 starters but that unit wasn't the team's strength anyway. Prediction: Tulane 31 Navy 21.

Notre Dame, Nov. 8, South Bend, Ind.- Navy led 23-15 after 3 quarters in the 2002 version of this match up. But then the clock struck midnight and the Irish reeled off 15 consecutive points to save the day for Notre Dame. Don't expect similar events in 2003. Tyrone Willingham will have his team primed and ready for this game. Prediction: Notre Dame 42 Navy 10

Central Michigan, Nov. 22, Annapolis- Navy will get a one week break after the game against the Irish before they face MAC Conference opponent Central Michigan. The Chippewas started out the 2002 season in grand style, winning their first 3 including a win over Wyoming, but then lost 8 of their last 9 games to finish a disappointing 4-8. CMU struggled in passing in 2002 and hadn't settled on a quarterback after spring practice was concluded. Prediction: Navy 31 Central Michigan 7.

Army, Dec. 6, Philadelphia, Pa.- What a finish in 2002! Navy had a party at Army's expense. Johnson proved he was clearly a better coach than Todd Berry. Army returns 6 starters each on offense and defense. Expect another whipping but not as lopsided. Prediction: Navy 45 Army 21.

So there you have it. 7-5. Navy's team will show significant improvement and possibly go bowling. Six wins are required to be bowl eligible and one of those wins may come from a Division I-AA team every 5 years according to the NCAA.


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